November 19, 2018

Weekday homilies November 19-24

Nov 19 Monday: Lk 18:35-43: 35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging; 36 and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me receive my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

 The context:  Jesus was going to Jerusalem to participate in the feast of Passover. When he reached Jericho, there was a big crowd of pilgrims walking along with him and listening to his teaching.  Beggars used to sit on both sides of the road, as the pilgrims were very generous, and the people used to line up on the roadside to greet the pilgrims.  A blind beggar on the roadside was told by his friends that Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle-worker, was passing by.  So the blind man repeatedly cried out at the top of his voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The pilgrims listening to Jesus’ teaching tried to stop the beggar’s loud cry, but in vain.  Jesus stopped and asked him his need, then gave him eyesight by a single command, “Receive your sight; your Faith has made you well!”  This miracle was Jesus’ reward to the blind man for his trusting Faith in the healing power and compassionate heart of the Messiah.

Life messages: 1) We, too, need healing from our spiritual blindness which makes us incapable of seeing and appreciating the living presence of God within ourselves and others.  But for that healing, we also require the same trusting Faith the blind man displayed in the healing power and mercy of Jesus, and the same persevering persistence in our prayers.  We need to pray with conviction, urgency and constancy.

2) We need to repeat the prayer of the blind man, “Lord, let me receive my sight,” when our Faith is feeble, when we cannot understand the reason behind God’s plans and when our commitments become shaky. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 20 Tuesday: Lk 19:1-10: 1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich.  3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 …9 …..

The context:  The theme of today’s Gospel is the benevolent and forgiving mercy of God for sinners and the response of repentance and conversion expected from us.  The story is that of the instantaneous conversion of the tax-collector, Zacchaeus.  As the chief tax-collector in Jericho, Zacchaeus was probably a man of much wealth and few friends. Since he worked for the Romans and extracted more tax money than required by the law, he was probably hated by the Jews who considered all tax-collectors public sinners.  The account describes how Jesus recognized Zacchaeus for exactly who he was – a lost sinner in need of a Savior.  Jesus’ response lets us see how God’s grace worked in Zacchaeus to lead him from idle curiosity to repentance, conversion and the making of restitution.  The episode emphasizes the fact that such a conversion can only result from a person’s fully receiving the love, acceptance and grace of a merciful Lord.  The story of Zacchaeus reinforces the lessons of the fifteenth chapter of Luke in which a lost sheep and a lost coin are found, and a lost son is embraced.  It also demonstrates the fact that nobody is beyond the possibility of conversion.

 Life messages: 1) We need to accept the Divine invitation to repentance.  We are all sinners to a greater or lesser degree.  Jesus is inviting each one of us to total conversion today by means of this Gospel lesson.  Let us remember that Jesus loves us, in spite of our ugly thoughts, broken promises and sullied ideals, our lack of prayer and Faith, our resentments and lusts.  Hence, let us confess to Him all our weaknesses and sins, repenting and ask Him trustfully for his Mercy.

2) We need to love others in spite of their sins, as Jesus loves us.  Jesus loved Zacchaeus—a great sinner — and by that love, Zacchaeus was transformed.  As parents or teachers, can we lovingly accept our children without first setting up for them standards of behavior as conditions for being loved?  Just as Jesus loved Zacchaeus even though he was a public sinner, so we must love others in spite of their sins.  Jesus expects this of us.  3) We need to be set free from selfishness for generosity: Zacchaeus was changed from being greedy to being generous, from selfishness to selflessness.  When we feel the warmth of God’s presence within us, that warmth will, in itself, melt our coldness and selfishness and lead us to repentance and generosity.  (Fr. Tony) L/18

Nov 21 Wednesday (Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary): Lk 19:11-28 & Mt 12:46-50 This feast commemorates the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a young girl in the Temple. Tradition holds that all young Jewish girls were left in the care of the Temple for a period, during which they were educated in reading Scriptures, singing liturgical songs and helping in the Temple. As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the Temple only in apocryphal literature. The Protoevangelium of James (recognized as an unhistorical account), tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was very young. Later versions of the story (such as the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary), tell us that Mary was taken to the Temple at around the age of three in fulfillment of a vow made by her parents. Tradition held that she was to remain there to be educated in preparation for her role as Theotokos- Mother of God. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless. The feast originated as a result of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary the New, built in AD 543 by the Byzantines under Emperor Justinian I near the site of the ruined Temple in Jerusalem.  The feast originated in the Orient probably about the 7th century. The Eastern Orthodox church celebrates it on November 21 as one of its twelve “Great Feasts.” The feast continued to be celebrated throughout the East, was celebrated in the monasteries of Southern Italy by the ninth century. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century. In the 1974 encyclical Marialis Cultus, Pope St. Paul VI (canonized by Pope Francis, October 14, 2018) wrote, “despite its apocryphal content, it presents lofty and exemplary values and carries on the venerable traditions having their origins in the Eastern Churches.” Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Life message: 1) Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. We offer ourselves to God asking to be made holy under the patronage of Mary and assisted by her powerful intercession and the union of her merits. (Fr. Tony) L/18

  Nov 22 Thursday (St. Cecilia, Virgin, Martyr): Lk 19: 41-44   41 As he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.  43 For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44 and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Context: It was when two-and-a-half million people were present in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover that Jesus’ followers paraded with him for a distance of two miles from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem.  But when the procession reached the spot from which there was a magnificent view of the city of Jerusalem, Jesus started to weep.  Later, Jesus explained why he loved the city, which was the center of Judaism, Yahweh’s promised place of terrestrial residence and the culminating point of Jesus’ public ministry.  He could not foresee without tears its destruction in A.D. 70 by Titus, who would totally demolish the Temple and the city after massacring most of its residents. Jesus explained the destruction of the city as a punishment from God because its inhabitants had failed to recognize the time of their visitation.  In other words, Jerusalem had closed its doors, and her inhabitants had closed their hearts, to the salvific coming and message of the Redeemer.  In spite of Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry among the Chosen people, they had largely rejected him, and their leaders were planning to crucify him.

 Life messages: 1) Jesus visits each one of us as our Lord and Savior.  He teaches us through the teaching and preaching of his Church.  We hear his voice when we read Holy Scripture.  He offers us forgiveness of sins and grace through the Sacraments.  So we should not reject him or his message as the Jews did, nor remain indifferent to him.  Instead, we have to listen to God’s warning about our need to repent, renew our lives and walk in God’s ways of peace and holiness.  2) We are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and we have no right to desecrate God’s temple by harboring jealousy, discrimination, injustice and impurity in our hearts (Fr. Tony) L/18

 1-PAGE summary OF THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.)HOMILY- November 22, 2018 

Introduction: Today is a day of national thanksgiving 1) for the blessings and protection God has given us, 2) for our democratic government and the prosperity we enjoy, 3) for our freedom of speech and religion, and 4) for the generosity and good will of our people.

History: The winter of 1610 at Jamestown, Virginia, had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. The survivors had prayed for help without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a thanksgiving prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789. In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day as a formal holiday to express our thanks to God. On November 26, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the bill declaring that Thanksgiving should be observed as a legal holiday the fourth Thursday of each November.

Biblical examples of thanksgiving: (1) Today’s Gospel describes how one of the ten lepers Jesus healed, a Samaritan, returned to Jesus to express his gratitude while the nine Jewish lepers did not return to thank the healer. Jesus asks the pained question: “Where are the other nine? The episode tells us that God expects gratitude from us.  (2) In 2 Kings 5:1-9, Naaman the now-healed leper, chief of the army of the Syrian king, returned to the prophet Elisha to express his thanks for the healing with a gift of 10 talents of silver, 6000 pieces of gold and six Egyptian raiments as gifts. When Elisha refused the gifts, Naaman asked for permission take home two sacks of the soil of Israel that he might offer worship to the Lord Who had healed him, and he promised to offer sacrifices only to the God of Israel. (3) Jesus gave thanks to the Father at the tomb of the just-raised Lazarus, saying, “Thank you Father for hearing my prayer” (John 11:41-42). (4) St. Paul advises the Ephesians (and us), “Give thanks to God the Father for everything” (Eph 5:20).  

The Eucharistic celebration is the most important form of thanksgiving prayer for Catholics. In fact, Eucharist is the Greek word for thanksgiving. In the Holy Mass we offer to our Heavenly Father as an act of thanksgiving to Him, the sacrificial death and Resurrection of Jesus, made present on our altar. At the same time, we surrender our lives to Him on the altar with repentant hearts, and we present to Him all our needs, asking for His blessings. 

Life messages: Let us be thankful and let us learn to express our thanks daily: a) To God for His innumerable blessings, providential care and protection and for the unconditional pardon given to us for our daily sins and failures; b) To our parents – living and dead – for the gift of life and Christian training and the good example they have given to us; c) To our relatives and friends for their loving support, timely help and encouragement; and d) To our pastors, teachers, doctors, soldiers, police and government officers for the sincere service they render us. (Fr. Tony) L/18 

 Nov 23 Friday (St. Clement, Pope, Martyr, St. Columban, Abbot, Blessed Miguel Austin Pro): Lk 19: 45-48: 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, `My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.

Context: Today’s Gospel gives us the dramatic account of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem.  He drove out its merchants and money-changers with moral indignation at the unjust commercialization of God’s House of Prayer and the exploitation of the poor pilgrims in the name of religion.  The merchants charged exorbitant prices for the animals to be sacrificed, and the money-changers charged unjust commissions for the required exchange of pagan coins for Temple coins.  The Temple Jesus cleansed was the Temple in Jerusalem, originally built by Solomon in 966 BC, rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 515 BC after the Babylonians had destroyed it, and in Jesus’ day was still being renovated, a work begun by King Herod the Great in 20 BC.  The abuses which infuriated Jesus were: 1) the conversion of a place of prayer into a noisy market place; 2) the unjust business practices of animal merchants and money-changers, encouraged by the Temple authorities.  Hence, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove away the animals, the dealers and the money-changers, quoting the prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace”(Luke 19:46; see also, Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11).

Life messages: 1) We need to avoid the business mentality of loss and profit in Divine worship.  Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, with no thought of loss or gain, but only of mutual love, respect and the common good.

2) Secondly, we need to remember that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  Hence, we have no right to desecrate God’s temple by acts of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred or jealousy.

3) We need to love our parish Church and use it.  Our Church is the place where we come together as a community to praise and worship God, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask pardon and forgiveness for our sins, to offer our lives and petitions on the altar and to receive spiritual nourishment.  Let us make our Church an even more holy place by adding our prayers and songs to community worship and by offering our time and talents in the various ministries of our parish. (Fr. Tony) L/18

 Nov 24 Saturday (St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest as Companion Martyrs): Lk 20: 27-40: 27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; 30 and the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died.  32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; 35-40

The context: Jesus reached Jerusalem for his final Passover feast.  As part of a well-planned plot to trap Jesus, the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees met him with controversial questions.  The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection of the dead because they claimed that Moses wrote nothing about it.  If Jesus defended the concept of the resurrection, he would anger the Sadducees.  If he failed to do so, he would anger the Pharisees.  In either case, he would alienate one group.  Hence, in their hypothetical question, they asked Jesus who, in Heaven, would be the husband of the woman who had been married in succession to seven of her brothers–in-law (levires), and had died childless.

Jesus goes on the offensive as defense: Jesus begins his counter-argument by pointing out the ignorance of the Sadducees about the existence and nature of life after death with God.  Then he provides positive Biblical proof for the reality of resurrected existence.  Jesus is presuming that Yahweh’s burning bush statement demonstrates that these three patriarchs were still alive at the time of Moses, 600 years after their deaths.  Thus, Jesus uses the Sadducees’ sacred text of the Torah to refute their anti-resurrection belief.  Since God declared Himself to be God of the patriarchs, He must somehow still be sustaining the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thus granting them resurrection and eternal life.  So Jesus proves the resurrection of the dead from the Torah itself.  Second, Jesus explains that the afterlife will not be just an eternal replay of this life.  Things will be different after death.  Normal human relationships, including marriage, will be transformed.  Then Jesus tells the Sadducees that those to whom God has granted resurrection and Heavenly life with Him will be immortal, like the angels, and hence “children of God.”

Life messages: 1) We need to live the lives of Resurrection people: That is, we are not to lie buried in the tomb of our sins and evil habits.  Instead, we are to live joyful and peaceful lives, constantly experiencing the Real Presence of the Risen Lord Who gives us the assurance that our bodies also will be raised. 2) The salutary thought of our own resurrection and eternal glory should also inspire us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and to respect those with whom we come in contact, rendering them loving and humble service. . (Fr. Tony) L/18